We traveled to our next destination, Mount Koya, by going through Nara first.
In Nara, we took a quick tour of the first permanent capital in Japan. Mostly Nara is known for its deer as there are more than 1000 in just that small area alone. The temple there also features three giant Buddha statues which are huge. Two gold ones sit on the right and left of the biggest one in the middle. The smaller ones are about 1/3rd the size of the largest one.
The middle one is called the Virocana Buddha and is considered a National Treasure. It is 49ft tall (15m). This statue is cast from bronze, then plated with gold. It was consecrated in 752, but was damaged and repaired several times throughout the centuries.
The building where this giant statue sits is called the Great Buddha Hall. Since this hall was originally built with wood, it was burned down twice in its existence. The current building is actually 33% smaller than the original, but it is still one of the largest wooden structures in the world.
After visiting Buddha, I made my way off from everyone else to go check out the Nara deer.
My sister is an avid animal lover and has always wanted to visit the deer. So I spent an hour video chatting with her so she could see the park with me. She convinced me to pay the 1.50$ to feed the deer for her. Kind of reluctant, I still did anyway.
Omfg. That was almost a traumatizing experience. Lmao. I had barely broken through the binding holding the crackers together before I had four deer surround me. As I was feeding the deer, more and more started showing up. By the last cracker, I had over nine deer surrounding me, trying to eat my shirt, my pants, my purse, my hands, etc.
Even though I was sending this to my sister, I kept saying the entire time, “If these deer stampede me, I’m blaming you!” She was just laughing the entire time, super excited the deer were trying to eat me.
Back on the bus, we made the two hour drive toward Mount Koya where we were to spend the night in a traditional ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn with reed mats, low tables, and sliding doors).
Rengejo-in is run by a local group of Buddhist monks and offer this traditional experience to anyone. (Though it’s through reservation only due to the limited space.)
Before we checked into our hotel, we went through a graveyard that contains Koyadaishi Gobyo’s mausoleum. He was the first person to bring Shingon Buddhism to Japan and his mausoleum has become the last stop in many pilgrimages.
Koyadaishi Gobyo’s mausoleum was…mythical. You are not allowed any photography, cell phone use or anything digital. So while I was unable to take pictures, I’ll try to describe it as I am best able to.
Before you even walk through the temple doors, you are greeted with a Zen garden completely filled with pure white rocks on both sides of the walkway. The smell of incense hits your nose before you are even halfway through the path. As silently as possible, you continue through the temple doors.
What greets you is a cold darkness illuminated by hundreds of copper lanterns dangling from the ceiling. The flickering glow of the wicks brightens the faces of the golden clothed monks as they silently light candles before sitting in prayer. Even as you make your way through the quiet, magical room, you can hear, quieter than a whisper, the chants of the monks in prayer before the illuminated room.
Outside the temple, more lanterns decorate the walls and ceilings, candles are alight with a soft glow. Before the resting place of Koyadaishi Gobyo are six large bouquets mixed with myriads of flowers. A monk stands in prayer before the wooden walls, his quiet chants the only sound as you pass. Quietly, you arrive back within the world of pure white stones.
I hope that gives some idea of what it felt like to walk through such a sacred place. I wish I could have some pictures to show you the beauty within these walls. You’ll just have to make your own way here someday. 🙂
We went to another little Temple area on our way to the hotel.
After this little area, we made our way to the hotel for the night. It was already past 5.30pm and, as some of the group was still hung over from the night before, the inn was almost a respite from the confines of the bus.
The monks there then served us an all vegetarian dinner which was served 6.30pm to 7pm only. If you missed it, you were out of luck.
After dinner, several of our group went out for a night tour through the graveyard, but since the blister on the bottom of my foot had gotten worse, I had decided to stay. Tomorrow we’ve got an early start at 5am for the morning mantra and breakfast at 7am. We leave for Osaka before 8am. With only two days and two nights left, I’m getting a little sad. But I am missing my own bed and I really, really want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Night, for now,